The Conceptual and Methodological Model of the IACC Project
A fundamental element in the process of integration of the project activities has been the development of a common conceptual and methodological framework that ensure a successful integration of the tasks and permanent exchange of knowledge and experiences, avoiding the problem of having multiple parallel projects.
A central decision in the process of developing and strengthening this common framework has been the adoption of the vulnerability assessment model. The model (See Figure 1) emphasizes the need to analyze not only the future vulnerability of systems, but also their vulnerability in the context of current and future climate conditions. The model identifies three sets of interrelated activities: (a) the development of a systematic understanding of the current exposure of a system and its adaptive capacity; (b) the assessment of future climate conditions for the area where the system occurs; and (c) the assessment of future vulnerabilities based on an analysis of how the existing vulnerabilities of the system will be affected by future climate conditions.
Figure 1. The Vulnerability Assessment Approach
Key elements in this model are the concepts of “vulnerability” and “adaptive capacity” Vulnerability is understood as the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. In these terms, the most vulnerable systems are those which are most likely to be exposed to perturbation and possess limited capacity for adaptation. Thus, vulnerability is characterized as a function of the exposure of a system—a household, a community, an ecosystem, and so on—to climate change and its adaptive capacity. Generally, a system that is more exposed to a climate stimulus will be more vulnerable, and a system that has more “adaptive capacity” will tend to be less vulnerable due to its ability to cope with the exposure. “Adaptive capacity” is the property of the system to adjust itself in order to expand its coping range under existing or future climate conditions. A central component of adaptive capacity is the existence of an institutional framework that contributes to strengthening the adaptive capacity of a system, reducing its vulnerability.
The IACC project focuses on the vulnerabilities of rural communities and the role that some specific governance institutions play in reducing this vulnerability. It assesses the present vulnerabilities of rural communities to climate variability and water-related problems and evaluates this current state of vulnerability in the context of future climate conditions. Figure 2 shows the different research activities of the IACC project organized around the vulnerability methodological model. In the context of this model, the activities of the project are organized relative to three clusters of activities:
Cluster 1: This cluster involves an analysis of the current vulnerabilities of rural communities and households in the basins. This cluster involves several research projects: (a) an assessment of the current vulnerabilities of a group of communities in the two basins (Unit 1A); (b) an analysis of the role of institutions in the resolution of a group of recent conflicts related to water scarcity (Unit 1B); (c) a historical study of institutional adaptation in periods characterized by water scarcities (Unit 1C); (d) an analysis of environmental vulnerabilities identified by stakeholders (Unit 1D); and (e) an assessment of the capacities of governance institutions to reduce the vulnerabilities of rural communities (Unit 1E). These research activities facilitate the attainment of Objectives 1 and 3.
Cluster 2: An assessment of the future climate scenarios for the two basins—based on different climatic models—and their potential impacts. This cluster will facilitate the attainment of Objective 2.
Cluster 3: An assessment of the capacities of governance institutions to deal with the future vulnerabilities of the rural communities. This final cluster will facilitate the attainment of Objective 3.
Clusters 1 and 2 constitute the core of the research activities during the first four years (2003–2007) of the project. Cluster 3 will involve an intensive process of discussion with stakeholders and it will occur mostly during the final year of the project (2008).
Figure 2. Research Activities
The following sections of this website describe the progress of the project following the structure of the Milestone Report, which was approved by SSHRC in September 2004. The Report covers the period January 1, 2004-December 31, 2006, and divides the activities of the project into seven units. The following sections provide a succinct, but detailed description of the progress of the project for each of the research units (Units 1 and Unit 2), as well as for those units oriented to support the research activities (Units 3, Unit 4, Unit 5, and Unit 6).